Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Why OOO is lookin’ good

Es ist klar, daß sich die Ethik nicht aussprechen läßt.
Die Ethik is transzendental.
(Ethik und Ästhetic sind Eins.)

It is clear that ethics cannot be put into words.
Ethics is transcendental.
(Ethics and aesthetics are one and the same.)

— Ludwig Wittgenstein

Yep, another one of my ‘why am I following OOO?’ posts.

Here’s the thing. For decades I’ve been trying to figure out how the study of literature can become more objective. Yeah, I know, objectivity is problematic, yadda yadda. So stuff it! Anyhow, that’s what I’ve been doing.

It’s clear to me that the newer psychologies are part of the deal, a big part, as basic background knowledge and a source of models and theories. But so is developing better descriptive techniques. We need to gain descriptive control over our texts, like that paragraph distribution stuff I just bumped into (HD7: Digital Humanities Sandbox Goes to the Congo) – about which, more later.

At the same time it seems clear to me that this objective lit crit I’m stalking isn’t going to be very good on the political, ethical, and aesthetic issues that have been and remain central to literary studies. Isn’t very good? Perhaps it’s: Not good at all.

What to do?

One possibility is simply to jettison those concerns. Now, I have no problem in saying that there are whole fields of literary and cultural study where those value-laden concerns are not central. But to kick those concerns out of the discipline, out of the academy? I don’t think so.

Here’s where object oriented ontology comes in: as a way of bringing the descriptive work and the newer psychologies into political, ethical, and aesthetic conversations. I’m not talking unification, I’m not talking “bridge the gap between the two cultures.” It’s not like that; that’s old stuff. It’s dead and gone. Forget about it.

I’m just talking about conversation. The central tenet of OOO is a flat ontology, all things are the same with respect to Being. Nothing has more Being than anything else. Ants, computers, dust, galaxies, flocks of geese, E. coli, off-shore wind farms, sewing circles: anything, everything. The same with respect to Being. In conversation. Negotiating mutual living arrangements.

I think that can work.


  1. I don't think that can work.

    Triangles aren't trees; "democracy" or Heart of Darkness is not a ....duststorm. For that matter, is democracy an object?? Not really. A concept mo' like (St Ludwig be damned). Some objects--and concepts are more equal than others. The OOO gang seem like crypto-spinozistas iow.

  2. "crypto-spinozistas"

    Could be. I don't know Spinoza at all.